Salvatore Babones is a sociologist with a difference: instead of analyzing just one society, he uses data from different societies throughout history to teach lessons from experience. So in 2011, when leading economists like Robert Fogel (1993 Nobel Prize) and Arvind Subramanian (former Chief Economic Adviser of India) were forecasting decades of continued double-digit growth in China, Babones explained how China was in fact the “Middling Kingdom.” In a cover story for Foreign Affairs magazine, Babones pointed out that within a decade — by 2020 — China would be hit by three major economic headwinds: stalling globalization, a declining labor force, and rapid aging.
He wrote then that “China will likely catch up to Brazil, Mexico, and Russia around the year 2020 … [but] in the face of rapid aging, these countries will need to shift their economies away from growth industries and toward slow-growing health-care services.”
Over the next decade, he wrote articles for Foreign Affairs, Forbes, The National Interest, and many other magazines on China’s economic growth, with a focus on demography and technology. He correctly anticipated that China’s move to a “two child policy” would not rescue the country from low fertility and that China’s “Belt & Road” initiative would not succeed in redirecting global trade. His recent writing for Foreign Policy magazine downplays the risks posed by the China-Trump trade war while emphasizing the long-term stabilization of the Chinese economy at middle-income levels.
Babones is also an important commentator on Australian higher education, with frequent contributions to the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald on the moral and fiscal threats posed by Australia’s overreliance on international students to finance its university system.
Salvatore Babones is an associate professor at the University of Sydney. He holds an MS in mathematical sciences and a PhD in sociology from the Johns Hopkins University. His short book The New Authoritarianism: Trump, Populism, and the Tyranny of Experts was named “best on politics 2018” by the Wall Street Journal. A proud American by birth and habit, he has lived in Sydney since 2008.